The Georgia House of Representatives passed the bill Friday to create a new city of Ashford. The vote of 101-57 was mostly along party lines. Bill sponsors hope the name of the city can be changed back to Brookhaven as the bill moves to the Senate.
Bill sponsor, state Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-north DeKalb) called the vote, "a big step forward'". Co-sponsor, Rep.Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody) called the vote "seismic."
In the hour and a half debate, supporters focused on the right of citizens to vote for more local control, while opponents stressed the rights of legislators to have bills that affect one county be voted on by the local delegation, as opposed to a general bill, as this one was, to be voted on all 181 members of the House.
Jacobs, speaking from the floor of the House, told legislators that this bill creating a city of 49,000 people "gives citizens of the area an opportunity to truly govern themselves on a smaller scale" rather than by the large county commission districts of 138,000 people.
The opposition focused mostly on the process by which cities are formed. Rep. Elena Parent (D-DeKalb) said currently, "People can draw a map any way they want," adding that some of her constituents were upset that they were left out of the new city boundaries.
"They don't have a vote but are directly affected," said Parent.
Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) said the current process is flawed because it allowed "the more affluent, the most connected" citizens to form cities adding, "These designer cities harm the economic viability of the county."
DeKalb Delegation chair, Rep. Howard Mosby (D-DeKalb) echoed the complaint made by a number of speakers that this is a local issue that should be decided by the local delegation. His explanation was, "It's politics. Our county is run by Democrats. The delegation is run by Democrats. Some people don't want to deal with Democrats. "
Afterwards, Taylor agreed, "It was never going to happen as a local bill. Sandy Springs took 30 years. Dunwoody took seven years," and only passed as general bills when Republican became the majority.
Jacobs said he was pleased.
"A strong majority saw that the local delegation procedure should not be used to prevent citizens from determining their own future."
The bill now moves to the Senate where bill sponsors are hoping lawmakers will reverse the House committee decision in which the city of Brookhaven was renamed Ashford.